A good definition of prayer is seen in Romans 10:1: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” As one studies the Bible it is quite clear that great men of God were men of prayer – men like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Paul, and our Lord.
The Lord is our example, and we find that He spent much time in prayer. He prayed in the garden before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:39). Mathew 26:44 says that He prayed these words the third time. Jesus got up early and went to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). Jesus prayed after His baptism (Luke 3:21). Sometimes He prayed all night (Luke 6:12). In just about every letter Paul wrote you will find him thanking God for the brethren.
Prayer, however, is not a substitute for obedience. Saul was praying when Ananias came to him (Acts 9:11). But Saul was told, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
There is power in prayer. James said, “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). This shows that they were missing many blessings because they did not ask. James also tells us of the power of prayer. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
The apostles and early Christians were people of prayer. While waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the church, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. . . ” (Acts 1:14). When selecting a replacement for Judas, “they prayed, and said, Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:24). Acts 2:42 tells us that the early Christians “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” In Acts 6 the apostles would “give ourselves continually to prayer” and so they appointed seven faithful men to look after the neglected widows. While Stephen was being stoned he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Simon the sorcerer, after obeying the Gospel and then sinning was told, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22). In Acts 9:40 Peter in raising Tabitha from the dead prayed: “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed: and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” Cornelius the centurion was a man of prayer (Acts 10:1-2). Peter was a man of regular prayer. “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour” (Acts 10:9). While Peter was in prison, “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). After Peter was delivered from prison he came to the house of Mary the mother of John and found them praying (Acts 12:19). When Barnabas and Saul were separated for the work the brethren fasted and prayed and laid their hands of them (Acts 13:3).
After being beaten and placed in prison Paul and Silas “prayed, and sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25). After Paul’s farewell address to the elders at Ephesus he prayed: “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all” (Acts 20:36).
Our prayers can be hindered (I Peter 3:7). Sin hinders prayer. There is a connection between how we live and our prayer life. God told His people, “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). Notice some other passages as well. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
What a wonderful privilege to come before the God of heaven with our prayers, knowing that He loves us as His children and hears our prayers. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).